What is "life" in origins-of-life research?

10 years 10 months ago - 9 years 2 weeks ago #61 by Neeraja
I am not sure which, if any lecture, this topic relates to, but I do think it's one that would be interesting to discuss at some point. I am thinking about the recent history of this issue i.e. how have origins-of-life researchers' conceptions of life itself, colored and shaped the type of research problems they tackle and their approaches? Seems to me there's a big story there, maybe one that repeats itself - sort of like those Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series.

It's almost intuitive to think that anybody doing research into life's origins must know what it is that originated, and yet, my sense from my reading is that many researchers don't in fact articulate their definitions, or when they do get so caught up in that discussion that the experimental research into origins falls to the wayside. This last is not a claim but a sense only.. obviously I need to do a lot more digging before I can talk knowledgeably on the topic, and given the mounds of grading I need to get done between now leaving of Ischia, this digging won't happen for a while yet. But I thought I should get the topic out there, because it's one possible direction I can think of to follow up on my ribozymes paper.
Last edit: 9 years 2 weeks ago by admin.

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10 years 9 months ago #70 by Agustin
Replied by Agustin on topic What is "life" in origins-of-life research?
Hi, Neeraja - I think that question is a very interesting and important one, and I don't think that there is any consensus about the existence of a definition of "life", in origins of life research or in other areas of the biological sciences. What's more, I think that there are often contradictions between the beliefs and the behavior in commonplace scientific practice; for example, a researcher can frown upon a "checklist"-like definition of life but at the same time, have a conceptual structure that presupposes a series of characteristics for the biological phenomena (maybe even as a sort of ontological essentialism). This, of course, would resonate on the approach to the origin of life problem of that hypothetical researcher.

I am writing some notes for my participation on the first sessions (Stefan Helmreich's) and I think that discussion may present itself naturally, albeit a little tangentially, in it. I also expect that the theme will emerge in other sessions, and the last two sessions will wrap up nicely everything that we discussed about it.

See you in about a week!

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10 years 9 months ago #77 by Neeraja
Replied by Neeraja on topic What is "life" in origins-of-life research?
Delighted to see your response Agustin, and looking forward to be able to brainstorm about it. The notion you brought up - about contradictions between beliefs and behavior and especially between frowning on checklists yes having one inbuilt - are exactly the kind of thing I think would make for an interesting history. Am in Italy already vegging and trying to get caught up on sleep and reading while soaking in the sun, sea-air and sundry charms of this beautiful country. See you this weekend

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